The mysterious political consultants making millions to influence elections

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Though broadcast and radio advertisements paid for by multi-million dollar super PACs draw scrutiny, little attention is paid to the political consultants that produce them. For these groups, politics is a lucrative business.

Super PACs and independent expenditure hybrid PACs gave out a combined $552 million to the top 10 highest-paid political consultants during the 2018 election cycle, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, meaning only a handful of groups produce a majority of the political ads that fill the airwaves come election season.

Data on expenditures from outside spending groups, including payments to political consultants, is now included on the profile pages for super PACs and other outside spending groups on Opensecrets.org, making it easier than ever to see which consultants are being paid by these groups.

Political consultants — which use money from super PACs to produce political ads and purchase them on stations along with other duties — tend to stick with one side of the ideological spectrum and are often staffed with former political operatives.

With more than $149 million given to the group by super PACs and hybrid PACs, liberal consultant Waterfront Strategies claims the top spot among outside spending vendors in 2018. Waterfront’s dominant position isn’t particularly surprising, as it is an arm of the massive D.C. firm GMMB Consulting. Between GMMB and Waterfront, the two groups have combined to be the highest-paid consultant

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